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Former Armenian President Says Karabakh Resolution Essential

Levon Ter-Petrossian delivers a speech at the HHSh congress on July 17.
Levon Ter-Petrossian delivers a speech at the HHSh congress on July 17.
YEREVAN -- Armenian opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrossian said the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations were necessary for the country's security and sustainable development, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ter-Petrossian made his comments in a speech on July 17 to the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) -- a former ruling coalition member and key part of Sarkisian's Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance.

He also warned that the status quo in the conflict is fraught with grave consequences for Armenia -- suggesting that a renewed war with Azerbaijan could be one possible result.

Ter-Petrossian also accused the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian of underestimating Russia's role in the region and moving dangerously close to the West.

Although he did not comment on the basic principles of the peace proposal by the U.S., Russian, and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ter-Petrossian derided the proposal as pro-Azerbaijani.

At stake is whether Karabakh peace is also a necessary condition for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. The Sarkisian administration insists the two issues are not interconnected.

"If Armenia's authorities are really interested in the success of the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement initiated by themselves, they must solve the Karabakh issue first," Ter-Petrossian said.

Looking To Moscow

The heating up of the rhetoric is consistent with earlier remarks by Ter-Petrossian. Last August, Ter-Petrossian charged Sarkisian with agreeing to "sell out" Karabakh for the sake of clinging to power. In March of this year, addressing thousands of supporters in Yerevan, he blamed Sarkisian for "the prospect of a disgraceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

Speaking at a HAK rally in April, Ter-Petrossian said Sarkisian's downfall was imminent: the Armenian president, he said, was now faced with a "fateful" dilemma between a domestic backlash or putting himself at odds with the international community. "In both cases, Serzh Sarkisian will undoubtedly lose power," Ter-Petrossian predicted.

Also at the HHSh congress on July 17, Ter-Petrossian asserted that Russia -- unlike the United States and other Western powers -- has "vital interests" in the entire South Caucasus.

"This means that Russia holds the key to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict and even Turkish-Armenian relations," he said. "Therefore, regardless of its preferences, any Armenian government must look for solutions to these vital issues in this geopolitical context."

Ter-Petrossian added, "My impression is that Armenia's authorities are not conscious of that yet, whereas Turkey and Azerbaijan are assessing the reality more correctly, as evidenced by their recent active contacts with Russia."

'Defeatist Position'

Both Sarkisian's Republican Party (HHK) and major opposition parties not aligned with the HAK criticized Ter-Petrossian's statements.

"We don't think it is right to link everything with Karabakh," Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, told RFE/RL.

Stepan Safarian, of the opposition Zharangutiun (Heritage) party, denounced Ter-Petrossian's views as "unacceptable and dangerous."

"This is an absolutely defeatist position vis-a-vis not only the Turks and the Azerbaijanis but also the Armenian authorities," said Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Hovannisian, whose party had also been in opposition to Ter-Petrossian's government, rejected the ex-president's comments about Russia. "This runs counter to our national interests and prospects for our national development," he told RFE/RL.